an in-between move

Cool kids read The Bellman.


Don't read this blog!

I mean, thanks for dropping by my little corner of the blogospheric backwaters, but the blog you should be reading is The Bellman. The stuff I post there is much, much less likely to be imbued with dormitive powers.


[German, from zwischen, intermediate + zug, move

Literally an "in-between move". A move in a tactical sequence is called a zwischenzug* when it does not relate directly to the tactical motif in operation. |source|

image copyright TWIC

From this position, black played a zwischenzug: 19…d5
(Linares 2002, 1-0)


about your blogger

David Rowland studies philosophy at the University of Illinois - Urbana / Champaign, where he's an active member of the Graduate Employees Organization. He used to play a lot of chess, but wasn't all that good. He has a blog. And email.



A tentative answer
The occidental wisdom of Henry Rollins
The Grasshopper's dream
An important question
The Ass's Shadow
What the Hell happened to my template?
The 'G' stands for Walter
Calling all news media
"A Lexicon of College Slang"*
The perils of philosoblogging


error log

January 2004  
February 2004  
March 2004  
April 2004  
May 2004  
June 2004  
July 2004  
August 2004  
September 2004  
October 2004  
November 2004  
December 2004  
January 2005  
February 2005  
March 2005  
April 2005  
May 2005  
June 2005  
July 2005  
August 2005  
September 2005  
October 2005  
November 2005  
December 2005  


$zwichenzug$ sell-out zone





Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under
a Creative Commons License.

Union Label

Direct Action
Gets the Goods!


some folks I know

Mark Dilley
a daily dose of architecture
Safety Neal
January Girl
mimi jingcha
Hop, Skip, Jump
ambivalent imbroglio
Brooke & Lian


some blogs I read

strip mining for whimsy
It's Matt's World
School of Blog
Fall of the State
Dru Blood
Echidne of the Snakes
Colossal Waste of Bandwidth
Running from the Thought Police
Bionic Octopus


some philosoblogs

Fake Barn Country
Freiheit und Wissen


some labor blogs

Confined Space
Working Life
Dispatches From the Trenches
Labor Blog
Eric Lee


some A-list blogs

This Modern World
Matthew Yglesias
Andrew Sullivan
Political Animal
The Volokh Conspiracy


some other links

Rule 33
This Week in Chess
War Nerd
National Priorities Project
Bible Gateway
Internet Archive
A Weekly Dose of Architecture
Orsinal: Morning Sunshine
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Safety Sign Builder
Get Your War On


some philosoblogging

Six views about reasons
Seidman on reflection and rationality
And another thing
Tiffany's argument for strong internalism
Internalism v. Externalism
What do internalists believe anyway?
Rationalism and internalism
The experimental method in philosophy
Advertising to children
On moral skepticism
A linguistic argument
More on Williams
Williams on reasons
General and particular
Normativity and morality
Political intuitions
What it is, what it was, and what it shall be
Objectivity and morality
Thinking revolution
Abortion and coercion
Moore on torture
On the phenomenology of deliberation
Even more Deliberation Day
more Deliberation Day
Deliberation Day run-down
He made a porch for the throne where he might judge, cont.
He made a porch for the throne where he might judge
Every shepherd is an abomination
Droppin' H-bombs
ad hominem

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


Progress, scholarship

First, the wrong argument. The idea that scholarship ought to solve problems and make progress is built on the assumption that there is some real standard against which progress can be measured. But there is no discourse independent notion of progress. Hence, the very idea that 'making progress' is an important goal of scholarly endeavor is a non-starter.

This argument (or something like it) might be deployed by a defender of the cottage industry that has grown up in cultural studies around the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It's a response to the worry that Buffy-centered scholarship is somehow illegitimate since there doesn't seem to be any sense in which the Buffy scholarship of today can be said to improve on (or get worse than) previous Buffy scholarship.

The argument fails because it tries to show too much. Granting, as we should, that there's no discourse independent notion of progress, it doesn't follow that the notion of progress is empty. In fact, a given discourse may (and possibly must) have standards which regulate how one is to negotiate the problems that can be articulated in that discourse.

This is all that is needed for a notion of progress, but it does leave the question of whether a discourse dependent notion of progress can provide us with important goals. The answer, it seems to me, is that this will depend on whether the problems articulated in the discourse are worth solving. Since our choice of discourses will often be guided by our perception that the discourse sheds light on salient problems, it seems clear that making discourse dependent progress can sometimes provide us with important goals.

But, as I said, it was the wrong argument. The defender of Buffy-centered scholarship seems to be left with two alternatives. She can either continue to dispute the notion that the legitimacy of a piece of scholarship depends upon the work's contribution to the solution of a definable and important problem, or she can give an account of the problem that such work addresses.

There is a straighforward way in which Buffy scholarship can be said to be directed at a problem. That is, we can say that Buffy is a text, and that Buffy scholarship succeeds insofar as at opens that text to interpretation. The difficulty with this answer is that the notion of progress appealled to fails to ground interest in the project. What's missing is an appreciation of what opening the text accomplishes.

That's not to say that opening the text fails to accomplish anything. Rather, the point is that what it accomplishes need not have anything at all to do with what other openings of the text accomplished. And this means that insofar as there is a common problem which Buffy scholarship shares that problem is just the uninteresting one of making the text more open.

And yet, particular pieces of Buffy scholarship are not uninteresting, nor do they fail to accomplish anything. It's just that their interest does not derive from the common problem they share with other tokens of Buffy scholarship and that their accomplishment cannot be understood in terms of progress toward the solution of any such problem.

This brings me to the right argument. The idea that scholarship ought to solve problems and make progress is built on the assumption that the standards for success in any discourse must be cashed out in terms of definable problems which are amenable to solution. But while there are some domains in which we do well to judge by such standards, there are other domains in which such standards are unhelpful. Nor does the unhelpfulness of such standards mean that the domain fails to be a proper subject of scholarly interest. Hence, the very idea that 'making progress' must be the primary goal of all scholarly endeavor is a non-starter.

+ - + - + main + - + - +